June 7, 2018 / 3:32 AM / 17 days ago

Australian shares rise led by banks, materials; NZ scales record

* Banks lead rise but AMP drags after fourth class action suit

* Material stocks add to gains on strong base metal prices

* NZ hits record, helped by consumer staples

By Devika Syamnath

June 7 (Reuters) - Australian shares rose on Thursday in thin trade, underpinned by banks following overnight gains on Wall Street, while commodity and energy stocks also rallied on robust metals and crude oil prices.

The S&P/ASX 200 index advanced 0.7 percent or 41.3 points to 6,066.4 by 0314 GMT. The benchmark added 0.5 percent on Wednesday.

“We’ve got a nice combination of oil recovering, which has helped the market, and got a good lead from Wall Street. Basic materials ... did well in the U.S.,” said Greg McKenna, Chief Market Strategist at AxiTrader.

Wall Street indexes gained on Wednesday with help from financial stocks as investors eyed strong economic data and as trade war fears took a back seat.

Bank stocks took over most of the gains but embattled wealth manager AMP Ltd extended losses to fall 3 percent to its lowest in nearly seven years. AMP was the second biggest drag on the main board.

The company confirmed on Thursday that it had been served with another class action proceeding in Australia’s Federal Court and said it intended to vigorously defend all proceedings.

Australian law firms haven been suing AMP on behalf of its shareholders after allegations of misconduct sent the wealth manager’s shares tumbling.

Australia’s “Big Four” banks climbed between 0.7 percent and 1.6 percent, following their U.S. peers.

Material stocks also supported the main board and gained 1.6 percent on the back of strong iron ore and base metal prices.

Benchmark copper extended gains to its highest in four months as weakness in the dollar added to supply concerns sparked by ongoing wage negotiations at the Escondida mine in Chile.

Top miners BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto advanced more than 2 percent each with BHP providing the biggest boost to the benchmark index.

Elsewhere, retail conglomerate Wesfarmers Ltd scaled its highest level in over 3 years after its managing director said the company will be wary of dealmaking and focus on existing businesses.

Real estate stocks, traditionally seen as bond proxies, bucked the overall trend with property managers such as Stockland Corp and Mirvac Group losing over 1.3 percent after a climb in U.S. treasury yields.

New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose as much as 0.5 percent to hit a record high at 8,856.12.

Consumer staples and industrial stocks drove the gains on the index.

A2 Milk Company Ltd was the top gainer, climbing as much as 3 percent while Auckland International Airport Ltd rose up to 1.5 percent to its highest in over nine months. (Reporting by Devika Syamnath in Bengaluru, additional reporting by Karthika Namboothiri; editing by Richard Pullin)

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